Claiming gross violations of constitutional rights, the American Civil LIberties Union of Philadelphia filed suit last week against the city police department’s stop-and-frisk policies. The policing measures are targeted at Philadelphia’s African American and Latino population. The lawsuit, Bailey, et al. v. City of Philadelphia, et al., is similar to one filed two years ago by the Center for Constitutional Rights against New York City police.
The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights are right: In both cases hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young black and brown men – the overwhelming majority of whom have committed no crime – are routinely racially profiled and frisked by police,.
And the numbers are escalating. Last year in Philadelphia 253,333 persons were stopped, as compared to 102,319 the year before. Over 70 percent of them were black. Only 8 percent of those were arrested.
In New York City, 315,483 were stopped in 2004. Last year the figure escalated to 575,304. Some 85 percent of these individuals were never charged with any crime.
A report by Jeffrey Fagan, professor of law and public health at Columbia University, in support of the New York lawsuit, says that over 150,000 stops over the last six years were unconstitutional.
The searches, purportedly done to seize illegal weapons, have produced almost zero results: 0.15 handguns out 100 stops, says the Center for Constitutional Rights.
What it has produced is feeling of living in a state of siege in African American and Latino communities across the country.The racial profiling tactics of immigration authorities must also be added to the picture.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert put it this way: “The police in New York City are not just permitted, they are encouraged to trample on the rights of black and Hispanic New Yorkers by relentlessly enforcing the city’s degrading, unlawful and outright racist stop-and-frisk policy.”
Crime rates have dropped, but the unconstitutional, and therefore criminal, harassment of black and brown youth is on the increase.
The ongoing criminalization of large sections of our country’s youth continues to tug at if not unravel the national fabric, creating distrust and despair.
The ugly racist and anti-immigrant overtones in the Big Business/tea party fall campaign is fed by and in turns feeds these policies.
Racial profiling is against the law. It is anti-worker and affects black, brown, Asian and white unemployed and employed.
It must be stopped, in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, in the state of Arizona: wherever it rears its ugly head.